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Mystique Series #15 : work begins

Posted by Dave Bull at 2:00 AM, July 4, 2011 [Permalink]

Well, there isn't any way at all that print #15 in this series is going to be finished by the (self-appointed) deadline of the 15th of this month, but that's not a factor this time - this print is going to be a bit 'special'!

Part-way through the production of the previous print in the series (#14) I made a bit of a change at one point - cancelling a plan to use mica powder on one of the blocks. People who had been following along with the process accepted my decision to do that, but some of them did express (slight) disappointment that they would thus miss a chance to have such a nicely decorated print in their collection. (I'll ignore the fact that somebody expressed it as "I would like to see some bling!")

So I kept that in mind when perusing my collection of prints and books looking for a suitable candidate for this next print. I should mention at this point that designs #17 and #18 (the last one) have been decided for quite some time, and I thus only have two spots left 'open' - 15 and 16. Looking back through the work done to date I see that although it is indeed quite a 'nice' set of prints, we don't really have anything kind of 'spectacular'.

Now, common sense right away jumps up and starts yelling in my ear, "Dave, don't even think about what you are thinking about! These are small-scale, quite inexpensive prints. People are getting very good value. 'Spectacular' isn't on the menu this time around. Save it. Do you hear me? Save it!"

But hey, since when has 'common sense' ever been allowed to have any input into my projects?

So ... as I said, print #15 is going to be a bit late. Let's see why ...

Those of you who have explored the 'new improved' Mokuhankan website in the past few weeks may have noticed that there is a new category of prints included in the catalogue - Partner Goods. No need for a long explanation at this point, but this is simply a chance to expose the print-related material of some people who I know and trust, and who otherwise have no chance for their products to reach overseas viewers.

One of the first entries in this category is a selection of old prints and books being offered by my friend Shingo Ueda. I was over at his place one day, and he showed me some very beautiful items. We chatted about the idea for a while, and I decided to put them into the catalogue ...

Anyway, that's no particular connection with my current Mystique series, but one of the items we studied that day - the 'Hana Moyo' album by Kiyochika - left me drooling in amazement at its beauty. What if I were to make a reproduction of one of those prints ... ?

Well, a massive project like that is completely out of the question at the moment, but I thought it might be interesting if I simply 'trimmed' an area from one of them, and incorporated it into my current series. And so that's what I did, and that's what this next print will be.

Here's a snapshot of one spread from the album - this is actually three standard o-ban prints side-by-side (clickable for enlargement):

I have selected just a small portion from the centre of this spread - a 'portrait' of the lady in the center, including her face and hairdo, and a bit of her highly-decorated kimono; maybe about like this:

Now I have to mention right up front - so that the collectors will not be disappointed when they receive their package - I am not making a line-for-line and colour-for-colour reproduction of this. It would need just too many blocks, and in any case, the reduction in size is going to preclude the inclusion of all the detail. But having said that, I think I should be able to produce something 'interesting'!

The hair on this print is done in a very interesting way. Instead of the 'typical' one-by-one hairlines, the Meiji-era men 'gathered' them into groups:

This is of course far more difficult to carve. Instead of the knife sliding off the end of each hair freely, it must now contend with 'bumping' into the other hairs. This will be 'fun'.

As Webcam watchers already know, tracing is nearly done. Here's the same area with the lines now carefully traced and cleaned up:

Carving should be under way sometime Tuesday (unless there are unexpected 'interruptions' from some of the other activities going on here recently!). Just when this thing will be finished is impossible to predict with any accuracy at present. Good cooking takes time!


Following comment posted by: Dave on July 4, 2011 11:04 PM

(Oh, I forgot to mention ... about the 'bling' ... The spider web pattern you see there is printed with metallics. There'll be a bit of 'sparkle' in this one ...)

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